A possible clash between boxers MC Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen, who are involved in a long-running selection row over a spot in the Olympic qualifiers, will not take place after the Manipuri boxer pulled out due to a back injury, according to a report by The Times of India.
The bout between the two, which would have been a precursor to their trial for the Olympic qualifiers, was to take place in the Big Bout League, which is a tournament sanctioned by the Boxing Federation of India. Mary Kom is the captain of the Punjab Panthers franchise while Nikhat Zareen leads the North East Rhinos.
However, a back injury meant the team wants the Olympic medallist to rest and not take chances ahead of the business end of the tournament.
“Mary Kom has a back issue, maybe some swelling or spasm there. The back injury has been troubling her for some time, so the doctors told her to rest properly. She is a legend and a key player of our franchise, so we didn’t want to take any chances,” Dinesh Pandey, the owner of the franchise which Mary Kom represents, was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
The newspaper also stated that it was Chhote Lal Yadav, Mary Kom’s personal coach, who suggested she didn’t compete as it would not affect the selection trial for Tokyo Olympic qualifier. The coach believed that the bout would lead to necessary media speculation but also put pressure on the two boxers ahead of the trial, continued the report.
The boxers have been involved in an off-court row over the Olympic qualifiers after BFI president Ajay Singh’s statement that six-time world champion Mary Kom would be exempt from trials.
Singh’s statement had prompted former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen to demand a trial against Mary Kom, who has maintained that she would abide by any decision taken by the federation.
It was eventually decided that women boxers vying to be on India’s squad for next year’s Olympic Qualifiers will appear for selection trials on December 29-30.